John Brownell has earned the right to be called nearly every positive nickname you can think of for a starting pitcher.
Ace, workhorse, stopper, innings-eater, any of those could apply, as Brownell led the team in starts, wins, innings pitched and strikeouts and led the Atlantic League with seven complete games this season.
Now, after his performance in Game 1 of the Liberty Division Championship Series Wednesday night you can add big-game pitcher to that list, too.
Brownell pitched another complete game, allowing two runs and seven hits with a season-high 12 strikeouts and one walk, as the Ducks took the first game of the best-of-five series against Southern Maryland, 6-2.
The Ducks will host Game 2 at 6:35 p.m. Thursday.
"You've got to be confident, kind of a cocky confident, so I always think of myself as a big-game pitcher," Brownell said. "I want the ball in that game, and you've got to have that kind of attitude."
Brownell seemed to get stronger as the game went deeper. Through the first five frames he allowed at least one hit in each inning, but was perfect in the sixth and seventh, retiring 10 consecutive batters from the fifth through eighth innings. In the ninth, he surrendered the walk, but also earned his 12th strikeout for the final out of the game, a breaking ball over the outside corner to Blue Crabs rightfielder Sean Smith, Brownell's 136th pitch of the game.
"I prepare myself to take a heavy workload," said Brownell, whose season-high pitch count was 144. "One of my goals is to be a horse and be that leader of the staff the day I've got the ball."
The Ducks offense came from the middle of their order. Bryant Nelson, Bill Hall and Adam Bailey, the team's three, four and five hitters, each went 2-for-4 and combined to hit two home runs and score five runs. Ryan Strieby, batting seventh, went 4-for-4 with a double, a run and two RBIs.
Strieby's RBI single in the third gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead, Nelson's homer in the fifth made it 4-2, and Bailey's long ball in the sixth put the Ducks ahead 5-2.
"We swung the bats pretty well together as a group," Strieby said. "I felt good. A couple of balls bounced my way and it ended up being a good night."